Poco Fire grows to 8,100 acres, affects Phoenix air quality

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

YOUNG, Ariz. -- The Poco Fire in the Tonto National Forest has grown to an estimated 8,100 acres and the smoke has made its way to the Valley, prompting a Health Watch for Wednesday.

Officials said the Poco Fire burning near Young is 15 percent contained.

There are 641 firefighters assigned to the wildfire, including 11 hotshot crews, six 20-person crews, 24 engines, five dozers, 14 water tenders and four helicopters. Crews represent 12 states from California to Louisiana.

Fire officials said the majority of fire growth Tuesday was on the east and northwest sides and included spot fires north of Forest Road 128.

The fire spread under a portion of the twin 500 kV electrical transmission lines that provide energy to Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. The lines are currently inactive and will be evaluated for future re-energizing.

Crews conducted burnout operations between FR 102 and FR 512 Tuesday night. On Wednesday, crews will contend with an excessive heat warning issued by the National Weather Service. Officials said steep terrain and aggressive fire behavior including spotting and rapid rates of spread will continue to hamper containment efforts.

FR 512 remains closed between FR 291 and FR 200, the Chamberlin Trail. In addition, a portion of the ranger district is closed east of FR 200, south of FR 291 and north of FR 512.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued a Health Watch for the Valley for Wednesday after winds brought smoke to the Phoenix area.

During the Health Watch:

•  Avoid activities that generate dust, such as driving on dirt roads.
•  Stabilize loose soils.
•  Eliminate fireplace and wood stove use.
•  Drive as little as possible: car pool, use public transit or telecommute.
•  Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
•  Those with sensitive respiratory systems should limit their time outdoors.

There will be a community meeting in Heber-Overgaard Wednesday at the Mogollon High School Gymnasium, 3450 Mustang Ave. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. Officials will provide an update on the Poco Fire and answer questions.

For more information regarding forest recreation sites and fire restrictions, contact the Tonto National Forest at 602-225-5200, or check online at www.fs.usda.gov/tonto.